Where in the world?
It's a wonderful process. We sit, we read magazines and websites cover to cover, and we carefully choose our new computing purchases based on our needs and wants. We log on to our favourite e-tailer, pick out the products, enter credit card details and before we know it, the delivery man is round with a big box of love.
But do you ever stop to think about where this gear is actually coming from in the first place? Stop to consider that someone, somewhere, is getting excited about the 200 Radeon X1900s he has arriving in tomorrow to go out to his customers? That someone in California is raving about a new 64-pipeline GeForce he has designed, and is eagerly awaiting the first samples to land on his desk to he can begin to test the awesome power? That, as we sleep, production lines in Taiwan are turning out the motherboards that we're going to be ordering in a month from now?
The internet and modern communications have clearly made the world feel a lot smaller. We can call or email someone, anywhere in the world, any time we like. But that doesn't change the fact there are still different countries and continents where certain things happen and certain things don't, and there are still areas known more for some things than others. China is a big hub for manufacturing, California is still the home of chip design, and Britain… well, Britain still has some of the best writers and journalists in the world. In our utterly unbiased opinions, of course.
So, we at bit-tech
towers decided that we wanted to investigate exactly where all our favourite gear comes from and how it gets made. We embarked on a gruelling world tour to find the offices and the manufacturing plants of all the top companies that we cared about, and then put finger to keyboard to report back to you. Did you know that some of the top enthusiast components in the world are designed in Canada? That one of the most anticipated games of 2006 is being developed in the Ukraine? That one of your daily website reads comes out of Alaska? Thought not!
So then, dear reader, hope onboard the bit-tech
private jet and buckle your seatbelt, as we take you on a whistlestop tour around the world technology economy. It might be a bumpy ride!
A brief history of Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is located in the heart of California, along the west coast of the U.S. Consisting mainly of the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, it is home to many of the world's biggest technology companies. The name was originally coined by Don Hoefler, a journalist, in 1971. 'Silicon' refers to the large number of semiconductor companies in the area, whilst 'Valley' refers to the nearby Santa Clara Valley.
Chances are that you've heard of a few of the companies that have their offices based in the Valley. Adobe, AMD, Apple, Cisco, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Maxtor, Oracle, Sun, Yahoo… the list is a who's who of the IT economy.
The large number of successful companies, means that the area is home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., and the real estate market is consequently pretty competitive – although there is still plenty of empty space to be developed.
Some of the top enthusiast companies have their offices within a stones throw of each other in Fremont. Corsair, DFI, Asus and OCZ are all located within a couple of kilometres.
Bizarrely, the nearest major population centre, San Jose, is completely dead. There is very little of any interest there, consisting mostly of housing and the odd quiet bar. There is a large science museum which is vaguely interesting, but the most fun is to be had by driving up the road to San Francisco, which is a multi-cultural whirlygig of excitement.
Many of the tech firms in the area owe their heritage to Fairchild Semiconductor, one of the major commercial operations there in the 50s. Fairchild was itself spun off from Shockley Semiconductor, an operation that invented a next-generation transistor that never quite caught on due to its cost and complexity. Intel, AMD and National Semiconductor all trace some of their heritage back to Fairchild.
There are also many venture capital firms in the area, looking to invest in new startups. The explosion of such firms was really started with the Apple IPO in 1980, which raised an enormous (back then) $1.3 billion, and showed the potential for return on investment.